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Are Warbirds Too Rare to Fly?
Are Warbirds Too Rare to Fly?
   Are they too rare to fly? Should we gather up all of our remaining, valuable, irreplacable WW2 machines and lock them up in museums so they will remain forever? The following is an Internet Poll from AVweb, an Internet Aviation Magazine.
   "Do the benefits of flying rare aircraft (warbirds, antiques, etc, ) outweigh the risk of loosing them forever in an accident?"
There were 791 responses. The results are as follows
Some of the reader responses to the poll follow They originally appeared in Avweb at and are reprinted here with permission.

Copyright 2000 The AVweb Grgup.  All rights reserved.  To check out all  the comments to this and two related questions, go to

I fly a PB4Y-2, one of five left flying today.  Some say these airplanes belong in a museum.  I disagree.  These airplanes are hard working airplanes (we fight fire), and are probably better maintained than when in military service.  They are flown by more experienced and qualified crews than when they were in service, and I suspect that we know the airplanes better than the crews knew them then (all our pilots are required to be A&P mechanics, in addition to flight duties).  These airplanes were built to fly.  They're still fighting after 56 years, make outstanding delivery platforms, and are very economically viable.  Additionally, they're privately owned, and it's no one's concern that they get used.  
Mike Maloney

There is no museum in the world that can give as much exposure to an aircraft as when it's flown to an airshow or public display.  As part owner of a Stearman that has been restored and is flown in the local area, we frequently have our neighbors visit the airport to see the "Big Yellow Airplane".  In more than one case it has been the turning point in getting someone interested in aviation.  Nothing surpasses the fact that it's a "Real Airplane".  Al Crim

Aviation is in itself a living history of our ability to create and implement quantum leaps in technology.  It's important that people are treated to what it was like just a couple of decades ago versus what it is like today, and the antiques and classics existing and flying provide visible, tangible evidence that could not be achieved with a static display.  The sounds and smells that serve to stimulate the imagination and leave a visible imprint of the history of aviation do more to leave a lasting impression than even the most perfectly restored, yet silent, example of aviation's past.  I say, "Keep 'em Flying."
 Thomas Davies

At The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, I have the unique priviledge of flying an original 1909 French Bleriot 11, one of the oldest flying aeroplanes in the world.  During our summer Airshow Season, one can see on the faces of spectators both young and old, their complete amazement of how the early pioneers flew.  To hear an original 1909 engine "popping" away and see the pilot working the controls to get altitude is something that no static display can duplicate.  Speaking to visitors after a show, I find they have more respect for aviation the next time they "buckle in" and open another bag of almonds.  
Dan Taylor

Many people like to complain, but not enough are willing to put money on the table.  If it wasn't for the entrepreneurs, pilots and mechanics who rebuild and fly the old airplanes, there wouldn't be many left at all for the general public to enjoy.  I also believe it's important to make history come alive.  It's one thing to see a B-17 sifting quietly in a museum, it's quite another to see it roar overhead, all four engines turning!
 Philip Kemp

I belong to the Confederate Air Force.  If we didn't fly these historic aircraft, the majority of today's youth would not have any comprehension of how these wonderful planes affected history.  We get tearful comments from veterans who fought in the war, and insightful questions from teenagers who just don't see how a C-47 or P-51 or BT-15 or B-29 could make a difference.  All they remember from their own life periods is "Top Gun"!
 Tammy Blaylock

A librarian brought me a very old book from the 1920's.  I said that I wouldn't open it, because it was so old and I didn't want to damage it.  She said "You're damaging it by not reading it.  Only when you open it can it tell you the stories inside." I feel the same way about rare airplanes.  If we don't fly them as they were meant to be, they can't tell us the stories that they have to tell.  Donald W Harper

Aircraft are meant to be flown.  Hiding them away in a museum is like shooting the last panda so you can stuff it.  
Dion Marshall

Seeing a magnificent aircraft hanging from the ceiling by wires, forever silent, is like looking at a stuffed bald eagle in a natural history museum, never having seen the real thing flying free, and hearing it's cry echo from the mountains.  IT AIN'T THE SAME.  I've seen Spitfires on static display, but none could compare with the electric feeling of seeing, hearing, and feeling for the first time, 6 of them taking off in formation at Oshkosh.  WOW!  In addition, the movement to restore and FLY these treasures has resulted in many of them being brought back from little more than scrap heaps.
 Dave Desmon

Without the "rare birds", airshows would wither and eventually die.  Current jets? ... seen one, seen'em all.
 Norman Schultze

As a pilot who flies the only two remaining DC-2s, I feel that the chance for millions, that's right, millions of people to see these old birds fly, hear the old engines and yes, even smell the old smells, make it all worthwhile.  Putting the planes in a museum where they will be seen by relativly few people, denies the greater audience to enjoy the .'old timers".  Yes, the risk is worth it.  Dan Colburn

Being able to fly historic aircraft encourages individuals to go to greater expense and dedication in the location, retrieval and restoration of them.  I have been a long time member of the Confederate Air Force and support the flying of these aircraft.  Static displays are at risk too, from hangar fires, hurricanes and other vagaries of nature.  
Joe Cowan

Spiffires and Hurricanes struggling against clouds of ME-109s and Heinkel bombers decided the,Battle of Britain in six weeks.  In failing to achieve air supremacy over Southern England, Hitler was forced to abandon Operation Sealion, the invasion of the British Isles.  To see the actual aircraft that took part in this, and to see them fly, is something you can't accomplish with a replica or a Spielberg movie.  The Smithsonian is a boneyard, a nice one, well-kept, but still a boneyard.  The loonies who actually keep these aircraft flying are the ones who should get the subsidies.
 Richard Herbst

Here's two opinions from those opposed to flying old airplanes ...

The problem is "pay-to-play" organizations like the Confederate Air Force that overemphasize attributes such as money and ego. (No Name)

I get sick and tired of seeing rich yuppies, many of whom were never in combat, with a sick war-pilot fantasy buzzing around in rediculously expensive gas-guzzling old war planes.  I am glad that the Navy is asserting its rights to these old planes to help keep these historical relics from becoming another spoiled rich boy's toy.  I would like to see them shut down just on the basis of the waste of resources involved.  It is a sick, dumb person who spends the kind of money on these "warbirds" that these rich folks do in a world with so many problems.
Glen Ward

Special thanks to the So Cal Wing of the CAF for this information

Real, Living History at its Best!

I myself am a member of the Confederate Air Force, and what I see in front of our hangars is real, living history that people can touch, smell, and examine, not just peer at from a distance from behind a barrier.   The CAF is a non profit organization and all of its members, which numbers into the thousands, are volunteers who donate their valuable time so that the common citizen can be awed by these magnificent aircraft.  Many our members are veterans. Most are elderly. But they all have one common goal, and that is to preserve and maintain in flying condition the aircraft that flew during World War Two.  How many millioms of people have seen a warbird flying overhead in an airshow that would not be there to be seen if it was sitting in a museum. Most young people today are not interested in military aircraft, or aircraft in general for that matter.  They will obviously not go very far to see an old, forgotten, museum-stored warbird, and thus the only way for them to see one is to bring it to them. And that is what the CAF is all about, keeping real, living history alive and active at its best.

--Brett Gibbons

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